Finance Minister Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, presenting the NDC government's maiden budget in Parliament said government considered agriculture as Ghana's greatest strength and critical for the country's Industrial growth.
He therefore announced government's plans to ensure food security, improve incomes, sustain land and environmental management, improve extension service delivery and irrigation as well as other sub-sectors.
Touching on food security, Dr Duffuor said the country's major staples namely maize and rice production were projected to increase by 42.2 per cent and 22.8 per cent respectively this year, whiles the production of groundnuts, cowpea and soyabean were also expected to rise by 25.4 per cent, 37.7 per cent and 11.5 per cent in that order.
On the preparedness for emergencies, Dr Duffuor said government would utilize the pro-cocoon technology to store about 900mt of maize as national strategic stock.
Furthermore, he noted, warehouses, dryers and other facilities, including the former Ghana Food Distribution Corporation would be rehabilitated for use in the national buffer stock programme.
To increasing incomes in the sector, the Minister stressed the need to ensure diversification into cash crops, livestock and value addition on commodities.
He said farmers would also be further encouraged t, in addition to their food crop farming diversify into the cultivation of cash crops and livestock.
On livestock development, the Minister announced plans to support a pilot project to encourage small scale production of household poultry for a quick turnaround by engaging hatchery operators to hatch two million chicks for distribution to farmers.
He said guinea fowl farmers in the three Northern regions will also be supported with incubators to produce keets for farmers.
Dr. Duffuor said government would also supply improved breeds of sheep, goats, pigs and cattle from its breeding stations to improve the performance of our local breeds of livestock.
The Minister also hinted that 1,000 ruminant farmers would be trained on hay silage conservation, utilization of forage and urea to treat crop residue.
On animal health, Dr Dufuor said farmers would be trained on how to recognize, prevent and control diseases such as African Swine Fever (ASF); Foot and Mouth Disease; Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP); New Castle Disease (NCD); and Pestes de Petit Ruminants (PPR).
He stated that government would also institute appropriate measures to control the incidence and spread of Avian Influenza, and said the Pong-Tamale and Accra veterinary laboratories would be enhanced to increase the manufacture of poultry and livestock vaccines locally.
The Minister also mentioned plans to support youth in Agriculture, saying that 1,200 youth will be trained in agri-business, 7,000 supported with inputs to cultivate maize, rice or sorghum in 70 districts and 4,000 others would be supported with modern inputs and irrigation facilities to undertake farming in the dry season.
On sustainable land and environment management, Dr Duffuor hinted that an Agricultural Land Management Strategy would be implemented as a tool to address the unsustainable use of land for agricultural purposes.
The Ministry, he said would further collaborate with the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology to develop a Country Investment Framework for a sustainable land management.
On the promotion of quality planting materials, Dr Duffuor said government would supply quality seeds and planting materials to farmers to boost crop production.
He also announced government's plans to promote sustainable water harvesting and efficient water management technologies by training about 20 technicians in ground water exploration technology and drilling 300 boreholes for use in irrigation.
Dr Duffuor said the Ministry would also develop new irrigation facilities and rehabilitate existing facilities, saying that, it would rehabilitate 41 dams and dugouts that were breached during the 2007 floods in the regions in northern Ghana and complete the rehabilitation of the Tono Irrigation
He said work on the feasibility study for the Accra
Plains Irrigation Project which was initiated in 2008 would be
completed and the use of portable pumping machines to pump water
from perennial sources for irrigation would also be encouraged.
To improve extension service delivery, Dr Duffuor said the Ministry would employ the use of audio-visual mobile vans, print and electronic
mass media for agricultural technology dissemination.
The Minister also expressed government's commitment to promote a private sector led agriculture development by increasing their involvement in the delivery of some agricultural services.
On aquaculture, Dr Dufuor said government would increase fish production by about 20 percent and increase the farmed fish production from 6,500 tons to 10,000 tons.
Dr Duffuor said government would also facilitate the procurement of aquaculture and captured fisheries inputs at affordable prices and review all existing agreements within Ghana's territorial waters to serve the interest of fishermen and residents along the coast.
“For the implementation of the above activities, an amount of GH
¢202,629,307 has been allocated. Out of this, GoG is GH
¢60,541,825, Internally Generated Funds is GH ¢3,210,940, Donor is GH ¢138,876,542”, the Minister added.
On the cocoa industry, Dr Duffuor pledged government would give the required support to the cocoa sub-sector to enhance its significant contribution to the growth of GDP, foreign exchange earnings, employment generation and poverty reduction.
He said COCOBOD would also continue to pay the farmer a guaranteed price of not less than 70 per cent of the net for price and pay the remaining tranche of bonus of GH¢21,214,468.62 for the 2007/2008 Main Crop Season at the end of June.
Dr Duffuor noted that government would commit itself to the domestic processing of cocoa to provide more incentive packages for local production companies engaged in the tertiary processing of cocoa to produce chocolate and confectionery.
“ This will help to achieve the 60 per cent target for local processing of cocoa and increase foreign exchange earnings from the export of cocoa products, as targeted by the government”, he added.